Christy Ring Cup semi-final
Kildare goalkeeper Paddy McKenna pulled off six brilliant saves to help Kildare secure their place in this year’s Christy Ring Cup final thanks to an eight-point win over Derry in Iniskeen. The Lilywhites eventually eased over the line in what was a brilliant game, with Jack Sheridan netting two brilliant second half goals for the victors to guide them to the Croke Park decider on June 23.
The opening stages of the game was not high on quality, but there was no shortage of intensity which created an entertaining game that really got the nice smattering of supporters involved. Derry started in blistering fashion as they found the back of Paddy McKenna’s net through dualstar Brendan Rogers as the Slaughtneil man took a pass from Mehaul McGrath and made no mistake with a low finish from close range.
Kildare responded instantly as Brian Byrne caught the resultant puc out from McKenna and stroked it over from 40 metres, and two pointed frees from Barry Cormack levelled matters after eight minutes.
Cormac O’Doherty landed the Oak Leafer’s first point through a free, but Kildare hit back with their first goal as Cormack’s long range free bounced off the upright and Martin Fitzgerald was on hand to bat in the breaking ball. It was the Ardclough man’s sixth goal in four games in the Christy Ring Cup.
A couple of brilliant points arrived at either end in quick succession as the game began to open up, with Brian Cassidy pointing from the left wing for Derry before Shane Ryan split the posts with a lovely over the shoulder effort.
O’Doherty and Cormack traded scores from frees, before a brilliant Paul Divilly effort and a fine individual score from Mark Grace pushed Kildare 1-7 to 1-3 in front. It looked as if they might be pulling away at this stage, but Colm McGurk’s men kept themselves firmly in the battle as Cassidy set Sé McGuigan up to slot home their second major in the 25th minute. Kildare almost netted at the other end through Shane Ryan, but his rasping drive struck the post, though he was fouled in the build up and Cormack knocked over the resultant free.
Paddy McKenna really kept the Lilywhites in the game before the break as he pulled off three brilliant saves to twice deny McGrath and one fine block on Rogers, the pick of the bunch being a great diving effort to claw away a powerful shot across goal from McGrath.
Points from Cian Waldron and O’Doherty pushed Derry into the lead as half-time approached, but a final free from Cormack before the interval levelled matters at 1-9 to 2-6.
There was very little to choose between the two sides during the opening stages of the second as both teams had small passages of momentum without ever pulling away. A brilliant Kevin Whelan point was cancelled out by a score from Rogers, before Kildare seized the initiative with two scores in a matter of moments as Niall O’Muineacháin flicked a ball up quickly and struck over a brilliant effort, before substitute James Burke slotted a free between the posts. Ryan hit the upright for a second time during that passage of play, but Kildare looked to be upping the ante at this stage.
The Ulster men responded well as O’Doherty landed a free and McGuigan raised another white flag with a fine effort from distance, but it should have been much better for them as McGrath had another opportunity on goal but was again denied by a diving McKenna.
Kildare made no mistake at the other end when Shane Ryan battled well to win a ball in front of two Derry men before picking out Sheridan to thunder home a second goal for the Lilywhites, and while McGuigan replied with a point for Derry, Mark Moloney launched over an inspirational score for Joe Quaid’s charges to push them four clear with 20 minutes to play.
Scores from Paul Cleary and O’Doherty chipped away at the lead for Derry, and they should have taken the lead when Aodhan O’Donnell ran through on goal but McKenna continued his stellar afternoon by parrying his effort.
That signalled the start of Kildare’s drive towards the winning line as Burke caught a McKenna puc out and bombed over a superb point, and he added another from play shortly afterwards. Sheridan finished the tie as a contest when he turned on the afterburners to run 50 metres with the sliotar on his hurl before knocking it past Derry ‘keeper Ruari Convery.
There was no way back for Derry by this stage, and late scores from Fitzgerald and Ryan helped Kildare ease over the line and into a Christy Ring Cup final against London.
Scorers for Kildare: J Sheridan 2-0, B Cormack 0-5f, J Burke 0-4(2f), M Fitzgerald 1-1, S Ryan 0-2, M Moloney, M Grace, N O’Muineacháin, B Byrne, P Divilly and K Whelan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Derry: C O’Doherty 0-6(5f), S McGuigan 1-2, B Rogers 1-1, G Bradley 0-2, P Cleary and C Waldron 0-1 each.
Paddy McKenna; Cian Forde, John Doran, Paul Sullivan; Eanna O’Neill, Mark Moloney, Mark Grace; Niall O’Muineacháin, Barry Cormack; Brian Byrne, Paul Divilly, Kevin Whelan; Shane Ryan, Martin Fitzgerald, Jack Sheridan.
Subs used: James Burke for Cormack HT, Bernard Deay for Whelan 56mins, Mark Delaney for Sheridan 67mins, Chris Bonus for Divilly 71mins.
Ruairi Convery; Paul Cleary, Sean Cassidy, Liam Óg Hinphey; Oisin McCloskey, Chrissy McKaigue, Eamonn McGill; Mark McGuigan, Cian Waldron; Cormac O’Doherty, Mehaul McGrath, Gerard Bradley; Brendan Rogers, Sé McGuigan, Brian Cassidy.
Subs used: Alan Grant for McCloskey 41mins, Aodhan O’Donnell for Cassidy 44mins, Darragh Cartin for Cleary 56mins, Naoise Waldron for Cian Waldron 59mins.
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